On Friday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said McConnell’s insistence on locking in corporate protections in exchange for funding that keeps cities and towns functioning at the most basic level was absurd.
“To equate state and local aid—money for policemen and firefighters, bus drivers, sanitation workers—to complete corporate immunity is false equivalence,” Schumer said.
The impasse showed little sign of movement by Monday, although the outlines of a narrower bill have taken shape, with a separate measure that ties long-term liability protections to $160 billion in state aid. But the major sticking is really how long those liability protections would stay in place. Democrats seem open to the trade if the corporate protections are enacted for a limited period of time. While the exact details of the timeframe remain unclear, McConnell’s push surely includes enacting the protections for a period of years—at which point they would become the norm and corporations could lobby to have them enacted in perpetuity.
In fact, McConnell wants those protections so badly, he has proposed punting both his corporate holiday gift along with local government aid to next year, giving him leverage over Democrats by withholding the urgently needed local funding until he gets longterm liability protections.
The details of the $900 billion bipartisan relief bill are expected to be unveiled later Monday and will likely include two distinct parts: the $160 in state funding paired with liability protections and $748 billion in other relief. Here’s what’s included in the larger part of the relief package, according to CNN:
- $300 billion for small business loans
- $35 billion for healthcare providers
- $2.6 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for vaccine distribution and infrastructure
- $3.4 billion for grants to states and cities to help with vaccine efforts
- $7 billion for grants to states for coronavirus testing and contact tracing
- $82 billion for schools and other education providers
- $25 billion for rental assistance and an increase for food stamps
- Extends the eviction moratorium until the end of January 2021
- Extends student loan forbearance through April 2021
- Provides jobless benefits of $300 per week for 16 weeks
While the compromise does extend jobless benefits at a meager $300/week for the next 16 weeks, it does not include any direct stimulus payments for workers making less than a certain income—something Democrats had included in their original CARES Act and the White House reportedly lobbied for over the weekend.
The fact remains that Democrats have already made considerable compromises, coming more than $2 trillion off the stimulus package they passed through the House in the spring. But McConnell—who doesn’t seem particularly interested in bolstering the economy for the incoming Democratic administration—is much more passionate about insulating corporations from lawsuits than helping struggling Americans during the holidays.
As Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts told MSNBC last week, McConnell is simply “callous and disconnected from the hardship the American people are experiencing.” Pressley called McConnell “an obstructionist at every turn” and said Republicans “have abandoned the American people.”
That’s about the shape of it. As long as McConnell continues to keep his Senate majority by helping his corporate buddies while squeezing the rank and file, he’ll continue to abandon the people hardest hit by the pandemic across the country without a care in the world.